Jesus be the Santa of My Life?

I guess it’s safe to assume that everyone is familiar with the hit worship song by Israel Houghton “Jesus At The Centre”, or the slightly older one, “Jesus Be the Centre” by Michael Frye.

We sing it with gusto, and at times, with tears too. But really, is Jesus the centre? Or do we just want Him to be a Santa to us? Hey, in this day of commercial and convenient Christianity, I can’t assume anything. Of anyone. And of myself.

Is Jesus the centre of your life? Don’t say “yes” too quickly if all you mean is that you desire Jesus to be the centre. That wasn’t the question at all. Once again, the question is, “Is Jesus the centre of your life?” In case this appears or sounds confusing, consider the following …

Take me, for example. I am one who serves in a full-time capacity. As a servant of God. I teach, preach and lead a ministry. By all counts, in the eyes of many, I have given my all to Jesus, so He must be the centre of my life. Accurate? Not necessarily. If I neglect the needs of my wife and not love her as Christ loved the church, if I do not parent my children in God’s ways, then Jesus is not the centre at all! Ouch!

How about the faithful volunteer each Sunday morning? He or she comes consistently to church and serves dutifully. Is Jesus the centre of his or her life? Well, we’d have to see more of his or her life to know, wouldn’t we? How does he conduct his business? How does she relate to her peers or relatives? What does he do in his private time when no one is watching? How does she respond in times of difficulties and challenges?

Then, there is the Sunday Christian who appears each week – 30mins into the service. He is perpetually tardy. But when a crisis hits, or a need arises, this dear brother is quick on the dial (smartphone keypad) to contact a pastor for prayer or counselling and – surprise! surprise! – comes perfectly on time for the appointment. Hmmmm … is Jesus really the centre?

Of course, what is the Christian walk without faith? So, there is the faith-filled believer who asks so he will receive – after all, that’s his entitlement. So, Lord, give me a job, give me a promotion, give me a baby, give me a husband, give me a house, car, an iPad, … How nice, when Jesus is the Santa of your life.

As with most blogposts, I have observed and so I write. But more than a post that gripes against what I have observed in others, it is one that provokes myself to evaluate if there might the presence of something larger in my eye than the speck I see in theirs.

Is Jesus really the centre of my life, my marriage, my family, my ministry as reflected through my thoughts, my words and my actions? Or have I too approached Him with a long list of gimmes based on a self-righteous view of myself having been good and faithful, and deserving of all I have asked for? If so, I have only made Jesus the Santa of my life. And however loud I sing and declare, Jesus is not the centre of my life at all … I am.

Related Post:
Santa? Or No Santa? Can We Please Make Up Our Minds?
Jesus be the Corner of My Life?

42 Parents Turned Up For “Raising Christian Families in Today’s World”

I want to give God all the glory for what took place at Wesley Methodist Church today.

At the invitation of the Family Life Ministry, I had the opportunity to share about raising families for Jesus in today’s challenging and ever-changing landscape. A total of 42 parents turned up to attend this talk (from Wesley MC and also other churches).

The morning started a little tentatively with me experiencing some technical and connection problems – interestingly, this tends to happen at Wesley MC … perhaps, it’s time for a new computer (MacBook?) – haha! Anyway, one of the parent-participants, Jonathan, helped me troubleshoot and got everything set up. Truly, God-sent!

With so many things to share, the three hours zipped by so quickly. As far as I could observe, the crowd was attentive and everyone was duly engaged with the SEVEN key points presented, drawn from Nehemiah 4:1-20.

Another high point was that for the first time, my wife Serene was able to join me (albeit a little later). I’ve always felt that we should be doing this together as husband and wife, father and mother. And today, with the children able to stay home themselves, Serene could be present. During Q&A time, the women had a chance to ask questions, which in my opinion, are better answered by my dear wife 🙂

Feedback and responses after were positive, indicating that the participants were provoked to think further and more deeply. Is it all about surviving the rat race, education and academic grades? Or are they raising Christian families centred upon Jesus that these would be purposefully used for God in the advancement of His Kingdom?

I am praying that the Holy Spirit would have convicted the parents who attended, and continue to lead them as their cast their vision for their families and make choices that would glorify Jesus!

Dealing with Disappointments

I’ve been reading quite a few Facebook updates that express disappointment.  Typically, these are posted by young adults who have been let down or disappointed by their boy- or girlfriend hopefuls.  There are, of course, others who are disappointed with life, with careers, with the economy, with the government … the list goes on.

The truth is, as long as we live in this fallen world, we will be disappointed, over and over again.  The quicker we acknowledge and understand this, the better it is for us.  If not, over time, after repeated disappointments and hurt, we can end up bitter and hopeless.  I’ve come across many who dare not hope, trust or love anymore for fear of getting disappointed once again.  How sad.

Let’s explore this thought a little …

For starters, deep within each of us are needs that long to be met.  To fulfil these needs, we look to external things and people that seem to offer the answer and solution.  That’s what expectations are all about!  An employee expects job satisfaction and a good remuneration.  A parent expects a child to do well academically.  A wife expects her husband to romance her with all his time and attention.  A pastor expects his congregation to be on fire for God.  Whilst all these appear noble, the underlying motivation is often fuelled by our need for love, acceptance, for identity, for success, for fame.  In other words, we are looking to others to make us feel better about ourselves, to make us whole.  Put another way, what we are hoping for is this … that our own imperfections can be impacted and improved by others who are as imperfect as we are!  Can you see where this is all leading?  We expect (or are hopeful) that our husbands, our wives, our children, our bosses, our friends will all be perfect so that we can have the fulfillment needed for a better life.  No wonder we are sadly and sorely disappointed!

I may try to be the best husband and the best dad I can ever be to my wife and my children, but I’ve long since realised I won’t be able to meet all their needs.  I may contribute to their well-being and own understanding of self-worth, but I cannot be everything to them.  I may spend time with them but I can’t be always there for them.  It is just not possible, regardless the number of marriage or parenting seminars I attend.  If I think I can and expect that of myself, I have just set myself up for a big fall; for soon enough, I will meet with great disappointment when reality stares me straight in the face.  Similarly, if I expect the same of my wife and children, I will also end up being disappointed with them.  That’s because the selfish and self-centred nature in me will demand more and more of something they won’t be able to provide or meet!  Once again … disappointment!

Does it mean then it is better not to hope anymore; for if we don’t hope, we won’t be disappointed?  As we have seen, it is not hope itself that is the problem, but the object of our hope.

The psalmist understood this very well as he experienced difficult situations, as well as disappointing ones.  His conclusion was simply this … stop putting your trust in men or the world, instead “hope in God!” (Psalm 42:5 & 11)  What wisdom!  Surely, the One who is perfect will never disappoint me or let me down.  Even if His leading may not sit well with my limited understanding, I can still be assured that His ways are still the best ways.  Psalm 146:5,6 says, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord His God.”  This is the hope I’d rather have, than the uncertain ones placed in people however well-meaning they may be.  Hoping is others and the things of this world is never steady.  But hoping in God, and having our needs fully met and satisfied by Him is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” Heb 6:19.

I love my wife dearly, but it is inaccurate to think my needs can be fully met by her apart from God.  Similarly, I too cannot meet her every need.  I love my children and desire the best for them, but they are not given to me to inflate my fat ego.  I may hope that they grow up to be great men and women of God, but my hope must still be in God.  In much the same way, their reliance on me as little children must shift to a reliance on God as they grow up and in intimacy with Him.  My prayer for my wife and children is that they too will discover this truth for themselves.  As they direct and place their hope in God, it will help them better manage the expectations and disappointments life throws at them.  At the same time, the great pressure and burden to meet another’s expectation is also lifted.  We are to live as unto the Lord as the only one expectation we seek to meet is that which comes from Him! “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

Will there still be disappointments in my life?  I believe so.  But with this understanding and assurance in the Lord, I see these as needful and timely reminders to always keep my eyes on Jesus, to only hope in Him, for it only in Him can I live, move and have my being.

Marriages in Christ

It is common knowledge that the number of divorces has been on the rise.  It used to be that society frowned upon divorces and that kept marriages intact.  In the West, the Christian influence within society discouraged divorce.  Our traditional Asian culture also discouraged divorce.  Today, however, with secularism on the rise, the Christian ethic of the West has been eroded.  Our Asian values have also been affected and replaced by Western openness.  Although this sounds like a world phenomenon, the staggering truth is that it is also happening in the church.  Christian marriages are under attack!

For sure, a church wedding doesn’t guarantee the success of any marriage.  We have seen too many Christian marriages end up in divorce.  Why is this so?  Perhaps, our marriages are only IN church, but not IN Christ!  For this to happen, we must first have Jesus IN the marriages and this can take place at one of three levels as we will learn from the familiar account in John 2:1-11.

1.  Invitation

“Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.” John 2:2 

It’s nice to have Jesus present at the wedding or in the marriage.  But it’s not going to help very much if Jesus is limited to being a bystander or a spectator; or if He is only invited into certain situations and decisions.  The rest of the time, He is no different from the rest of the crowd.  Yet, that is what happens in many Christian marriages.  The couple may merely desire a church wedding, or for God to bless the wedding.  After that, life goes on as usual and Jesus is only invited back in times of trouble or crisis.  I hope your marriage isn’t like that.

2.  Involvement

 “And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’” John 2:3,4

Running out of wine at a wedding feast is no small thing for the Jews.  It is very embarrassing and a loss of face.  In some marriages, the couple is already facing a strain in the relationship but everyone chooses to keep quiet because it is too embarrassing to talk to anyone – it’s a loss of face.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother knew it was time to get Him involved!

To involve Jesus in our marriages means to allow Him full access into our lives, our decisions and our situations.  Jesus is given full control of the marriage, beginning with the husband’s and the wife’s own personal walk with Him.  Is Jesus involved in your decisions and situations?  Do you consult Him on every issue?  Do you seek Him for the plan He has for your marriage?  Don’t wait until your marriage hits a brick wall before you involve Jesus.

Make no mistake!  A Christian marriage is not one where two Christians are involved.  A Christian marriage is one where Christ is involved.
3.  Instruction

 “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” John 2:5 

Here comes the crunch!  Involving Jesus also means being willing to receive and carry out His instructions.  This does not mean merely using a few Christian pet phrases and quoting it every now and then.  It means total obedience to everything Jesus says in His Word.  It is when Jesus is involved and His instructions are heeded that real positive change takes place from the inside out!

What did Jesus say to do?  He asked the servants to fill six water pots.  Six is always the number of man, signifying human effort.  These water pots were used for purification, something which water did on the outside.  Often, we can try to work at it on our own, attend marriage seminars and workshops, etc.  Not that these are not helpful, but they tend to focus on outward behaviour modification instead of inward transformation.

When Jesus’ instructions were obeyed, He turned the water into wine, firstly signifying an inward cleansing by the blood and then, of even greater significance, the ushering in of messianic abundance!  That’s what marriages need today – an inward change that brings in the fullness and abundance of God!  Whatever He says to you – love, submit, forgive, be humble, sacrifice – do it!

Three levels of having a marriage in Christ – which level is yours at?  Invitation?  Involvement?  Or Instruction?  Don’t let your marriage contribute to the rising divorce statistics.  Instead, make a firm decision today to invite Jesus back into your relationship.  Involve Him in every area that needs His light and healing.  Then commit to obey His instructions that you may see true change from within and experience the fullness of marital life as He has promised (John 10:10).

What I Learned from “Fireproof” The Movie

I watched “Fireproof” at Covenant Vision Christian Church yesterday and a few points impacted me.  These are not new things but reminders of what I already know and believe.  But as we all know and experience, living out what we believe is an entirely different matter.  Here are the lessons that touched my heart …

You can be a hero at work and at the same time score a zero in your marriage.  That was how it was for Caleb (the male lead).  He was a great captain, leading his men more than ably as they saved lives as firefighters.  He was good in what he did at work, but was terrible in his relationship with Catherine (his wife).

It is so easy to think that the fault lies with the other person.  Both Caleb and Catherine thought they were putting in their best in the marriage.  They looked only at the imperfections of their spouse.  If they had stopped to see where they had gone wrong in their own behaviours and attitudes, they would have seen the problem.

How nice to be able to talk with your dad.  What was really heartwarming was the way Caleb was able to talk to his father, to seek his advice and then to heed that advice.  And godly advice at that.  His father didn’t just live next door … he was a good 4-hr drive away!  Yet, when Caleb needed support and encouragement, his father willingly drove over to talk with him.  And to pray with him.

When parents pray.  There was a scene when Caleb hit a really rough and low spot.  His marriage looked as if it was totally over.  Catherine was adamant with pushing through with the divorce.  After receiving this update, Caleb’s father tells his mother, “We have to pray harder for Caleb.”

When Christians live as Christians at work.  Caleb had a second-in-command, Michael, who was also a good friend to him.  Michael didn’t have to talk about Jesus or God, but lived so clearly that his faith was undeniably strong and unshakeable in any situation – even when he was almost run over by the train.  As Caleb shared his struggles, Michael stood by him but was not preachy or pushy.  His godly influence was subtle but stabilising.  Although Caleb wasn’t one to believe in God (at that point), he readily admitted that Michael’s “got the real stuff”.

Strong marriages require work, hard work.  Beautiful relationships don’t just happen.  It takes a lot of hard work.  And often, it is about putting our spouse ahead of our own desires, wants and needs.  That’s hard work!

Love is not about feelings.  It may have begun that way, but for marriages to mature, love has to mature.  Love is more than just feelings.  It is an act of will to always desire the best for the good and well-being of our spouse.  That kind of love is not selfish but seeks to reach out, to sacrifice, to give.  Even when you don’t feel like it.

You can’t love if you ain’t got love.  This was a wonderful revelation Caleb’s father shared with him.  After trying so hard on his own strength, Caleb was just about to give up on the 40-day Love Dare.  That was when his father explained why he was not able to love Catherine … Caleb first needed the love of God in his heart.  Without a right relationship with God, we will not be able to have a right relationship with others around us.  Without having and experiencing His love, how can we know how to love our spouse in the right manner?

I really enjoyed the movie and I’d encouraged everyone to watch it.  If I had watched it in the cinemas, I probably would have cried my eyes out 🙂

I’m just a regular guy

One of the reasons for me registering a blogsite is so that I can gripe when I want to, just like anyone else, and not worry if it tarnishes my pastor or minister image.  After all, I’m just a regular guy as human as the next person.  So what if I can teach and preach from the bible!?  It doesn’t make me one bit holier or more sanctified … not unless I allow the Word to change and transform me.  In fact, I think it’s much tougher for those of us in fulltime ministry.

Imagine this … I pray as I prepare to preach and minister, relying on God and His power … I get up to preach and feel the anointing (and the adrenaline rush too) … I make an altar call and people respond in droves … I lay hands on them to pray and *boom* they go down under the power … I “see” an impression and I release the word and tears begin to flow … and when it’s all over, pats on my back as they acknowledge God’s “man of the hour”.  WOW!  This is what ministry is all about!  What a mighty God I serve!  Awesome!!!

Then I get home to my wife and six children and guess what?  No anointing, no power, no earth-shaking revelations.  Nope, just diapers to change, plates to wash, children to discipline, toys to pick up and complaints to listen to.  What happened to every biblical principle that motivated and inspired the congregations?  What happened to the anointing that breaks the yoke?!  I sure can use some of that!  What if I lay hands on the children and they fall under the power of the Holy Spirit and get up from the floor totally obedient?  What if I rebuke the plates in Jesus’ Name and they get washed?  What if I fast 40 days and 40 nights and the murmuring and grumbling stops?

No!  I’m just a regular guy.  No special discounts for me, I guess 🙂  Transformation is still a process and it will still take that amount of time to deal with every selfish and prideful issue in this regular guy, pastor or not.  I just need to manage the ministry highs so that I don’t nose-dive to a crash when I try to handle life’s daily grind.  It is only by God’s grace that this regular guy can do extraordinary things.  May I never forget that.

In the meantime, the regular stuff continues with this regular guy.  Count it all joy … count it all joy.